What happens when a young Jewish girl, Shirley Abramowitz, is cast as Jesus in her school’s Christmas pageant? And of all the kids the drama teacher could have chosen, why did they give the role to her? Will her mother let the show go on?
Find out when “Coney Island Christmas” comes to the Ivoryton Playhouse.
This is a different kind of holiday show, says Jacqueline Hubbard, the theater’s executive and artistic director. “Christmas is about children and nostalgia” and this play is about a Jewish child who lives with her shopkeeper parents, and how she experiences the season.
Written by Pulitzer Prize-winner Donald Margulies, “Coney Island Christmas” is filled with humor, warmth and family moments — as well as tradition. Directed by Sasha Bratt, it will be onstage Thursday, Dec. 13, through Sunday, Dec. 23.
The memorable tale shared in this show is narrated by Shirley herself, as she looks back on her childhood in Brooklyn, during a time when Jack Benny ruled the radio. Shirley (now Grandma Shirley) is visiting with her family in California when it all comes up.
Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main St. Thursday, Dec. 13 - Sunday, Dec. 23. Thursday, Friday, Saturday 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Sunday, 2 p.m. Also Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2 p.m. $35 adults, $32 seniors, $20 students, $15 children. 860-767-7318, www.ivorytonplayhouse.org
“She tells her granddaughter the story of when she was a little girl in Coney Island, and was cast as Jesus in the school pageant,” Hubbard said. “Suddenly we are transported back to Coney Island in the 1940s, with all the nostalgia of postwar America.”
When Shirley’s parents, who are immigrants, learn of her theatrical assignment, they do not take the news well. In fact, they’re exasperated.
“The story is a familiar tale of immigrant parents worried that they will lose their identity if they give up their traditions, and immigrant children embracing the idea of being American and part of the new world.”
At a time when America is struggling with problems surrounding immigration, Hubbard said it’s good to remember the immigrant families we all came from, “and the wonderful, positive contributions that immigrants brought to this country.”
Hubbard especially loves how the show captures the message of Christmas in a different way, yet feels familiar and nostalgic at the same time.
“It is a play that feels like a classic,” she said. “‘Coney Island Christmas’ is about community and about what makes Christmas in this country so special. It is about accepting and embracing our differences and coming together to find joy in our shared human experience.”
The show is meant to be enjoyed by all faiths and all ages.
Though it includes some laugh-out-loud moments, Hubbard said most of all, it’s a heartwarming story with a lot to say about how life could be better through understanding and tolerance.
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